Dario Argento is a bizarre director of gothic horrors about hermeticism with a solid B film touch. It may be easy to criticize him because of this, but with his cryptic occult themes he certainly commands attention. Inferno made in 1980, the second part of the Three Mothers trilogy following Suspiria (1977), is complete with eerie music, mysterious black gloved hands which strangle victims or stab them with knives, characters on crutches and wheelchairs and maniacal cats. In the opening scene of the film set in New York is a closeup of a knife and a set of keys. A young woman, Rose Eliot, slits upon a book on alchemy with a knife called "The Mother of Tears" by E. Varelli. In doing so she breaks the Silence of the book. According to the Latin text there are three mothers who rule the world with sorrow, tears, and darkness and in places in three cities Freiberg, Rome and New York are three keys hidden in the cellars. The book is heavy on damning the women and comparing them to an evil trio of the Fates. A Sketch of a building lies on the table with an establishing shot of an imposing five-story building from the early 20th century. it is more industrial looking and unadorned with gargoyles and grotesques. After looking through the book, Rose writes a letter and mails it. She returns to a bookshop called Kazanian where she bought it and asks the shopkeeper if he has read it. He dismisses it and says it is not very unusual so she goes to the cellar of the store and follows a trail of water to a small pool. She sees a key and jumps into the pool to reach it when suddenly corpses appear. Next we see, a classroom in Rome where a teacher is instructing his students about a piece of classical music. They all sit with headphones and listen. The young man Mark Eliot, the brother of Rose, reads her letter. He notices a vampirish looking woman with bright red lips and a dress that looks like a shroud petting a furry cat. He is caught in her gaze and she suddenly disappears as in a dream. In one set of bizarre circumstances after another three women are murdered and Argento is heavy in pumping up their fear. Men are neatly killed with knives, but the women emit blood curdling screams and are always afraid and in need of protection, and as such Argento's women never have it easy. One is played by his wife Daria Nicolodi.
The art direction of the film includes sizzling cauldrons of bubbly messes, fires and jarring architecture with an array of brilliant dark colors. If David Lynch wasn't watching this film for tips I would be surprised. The building from the sketch set in Rome is clearly "The Inferno" and everyone who is trapped in it goes through bloody hell. But Argento is highly stylized so it is a lot of fun. The film is supposed to take up the work of the master alchemist who went under the pseudonym Fulcanelli. He wrote "The Mystery of the Cathedral"s about a secret language carved in stone by medieval alchemists on the great gothic cathedrals of Europe. "Inferno" is set to a great score and selection of music and pretty close to being a gothic horror musical.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan
© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 1/09
Italy - 1980